Conflicts & War

Sinjar tries to rise from ashes 6 years after genocide

By Noemí Jabois

Cairo, Aug 3 (efe-epa).- The sound of hammers has replaced the thumping of artillery in Iraq’s Sinjar district, which is slowly rebuilding itself six years on from the Islamic State’s genocidal campaign against the Yazidi people.

The ghost of that genocide still hangs over a region in the middle of a region under reconstruction. Sinjar, in northern Iraq, still has a lack of schools and just one hospital.

Barakat Sharu Khadra, 55, is one of nearly 400,000 members of Yazidi minority who managed to escape on 3 August 2014 from a genocide in which thousands of men and boys were murdered.

IS members also kidnapped thousands of women and girls forced them into sex slavery. Young boys who were kidnapped from their families were forced to fight.

Like many others, Khadra spent the last six years in a camp for displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Zakho, where he waited for the security situation to improve.

Once back on 28 June, he discovered his house, located in Til Ezer, was destroyed. The small village also suffers from a shortage of water and electricity and it does not have even a single clinic, which has he has diabetes, is a worry for him.

For now, he and his family live in the capital Sinjar, where they share a windowless house with no running water. The premises belonged to an acquaintance who fled the region.

He tells Efe via an online interview that he hopes the international NGOs “protect” them and help rebuild the district, especially schools. This way they would enable the Yazidi children to have “future,” he adds.

Nayef Sabri, who founded the Sunrise NGO in 2015, says there are nearly no qualified teachers in the district as many of them are displaced.

“Majority of the staff, maybe 80 percent, are volunteers so they are not qualified to teach students and if you visit schools even you cannot imagine the level of students and the education, it is very weak,” Sabri says.

With many schools needing rehabilitation, a lot of children must embark on a nearly one-hour long trip to attend classes and many families cannot afford transportation.

“A huge number of students have abandoned schools since the genocide,” according to Sabri, who spent five years at a camp for displaced people.

The same applies to health care services, with only one hospital in the capital and a few clinics across the district with a a limited number of qualified doctors who can perform a surgery.

Nadia’s Initiative, presided over by Nobel Peace Prize winner Yazidi Nadia Murad lists the pressing needs that overwhelm the NGOs’ “limited” resources.

Olivia Wells, director of Programs and Impact at the NGO, tells Efe that the most of the investments have gone to north Sinjar although the south was the worst hit by the “destruction.”

Therefore, the NGO is working to draw attention to the zone and the rural areas “that have been largely ignored,” she adds.

The coronavirus pandemic has halted the removal of anti-personnel mines in south Sinjar.

“After ISIS’s invasion and the liberation of Sinjar, 80 percent of public infrastructure and 70 percent of homes were destroyed. Three years later, much of this infrastructure has yet to be restored,” she says.

The fact that there are two parallel administrations and two mayors does not help in the rebuilding process, as it is a disputed territory between the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government of Baghdad.

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